Review: A Brazen Curiosity: A Regency Cozy

A Brazen Curiosity: A Regency Cozy audiobook cover. A woman silhouetted in white is superimposed onto a deep blue backhround with a grand country house behind it. Gold scrolling swirls frame the cover.
Duration: 7 hrs 29 mins.

A Brazen Curiosity by Lynn Messina proved to be the perfect lightweight audiobook listening during the post-Christmas downtime before the New Year, allowing me to recuperate from the demands of the season in charming company. One moment in particular made me laugh out loud, and I look forward to Bea's future adventures - for a woman as curious as she is will surely have plenty!

Though the plot feels a little like a Jane Austen themed game of Cluedo (which is impossible to avoid when one finds a corpse beside a bloodied candlestick in the library) it is highly enjoyable. As with all my favourite Regency novels, the heroine - Beatrice Hyde-Clare - is a spirited, forthright, 'blue-stocking' type, who defies the era's meek, mild, ideals and is not averse to a little sarcastic sparring with a well-placed Duke. (At times Bea reminds me of another favourite period heroine; Alexia Tarrabotti from Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series.) The mystery is not a particularly demanding or tortuous one, with just enough red-herrings to keep it - and the frisson between the protagonists - simmering until the denouement.

Unfortunately, narrator Jill Smith's cut-glass English accent is unconvincing. Some of it is well done but there are enough mispronunciations that - at first - it is hard to feel as though we are hearing the character's natural voice due to the repeated reminders that it is merely an actor performing a part. The distance this creates between oneself and the protagonist meant that it took quite a while longer to settle into the story than it otherwise would. Whilst a growing (rather ironic) urge to begin throwing dinner rolls each time I heard the words 'calm' or 'penchant' mangled did help me empathise with Bea's frustrations, Smith's pronunciation of Amersham was irredeemable. Using the French pronunciation for the card game Piquet was uncomfortably anachronistic for the period, and as a fan of other Regency works I was disappointed that something so obvious was left uncorrected in its many instances. Smith does have a pleasant tone to her voice over-all, however, and adds character to many of the supporting cast of friends and relations, delivering neatly upon the atmospheric promise of a 'Regency cosy'.

This audiobook has all the hallmarks of a splendid period tale. It is such a shame that a more native speaker could not have been employed to bring it to life, but hopefully future novels in the series will benefit from the opportunity. (And if not, I hope the narrator will listen to a little Georgette Heyer before her next outing, to better familiarise herself with the peculiarities of Regency/Georgian language, for I feel that she would make a much more satisfying job of it with a little more preparation.) The issues with the narration were not insurmountable, and the book was strong enough to overcome them and continued to hold my attention throughout.

Despite those concerns it remained good fun, and when I was half way through the book it was with dismay that I realised my time with Miss Hyde-Clare was drawing to a close. I will certainly keep an eager eye, and ear, out for other audiobooks in this series, and heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys genteel Regency novels and cosy mysteries.

*I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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